Prompt: Do you think that Luther really believed that Pope Leo X did not know what the indulgence salesmen were saying?
Martin Luther, as radical as he seemed at the time, was a Christian. A Christian that truly cared about his fellow Christians, and their fate beyond death. Because of this the 95 Theses resembled a passion project; it was an emotional debate set to tug on our pathos and ethos. Now because the theses was a work of emotions and ethics it had to fall into the basket of what Christians of the day felt, and most felt that the Pope was a honest and holy man. Regardless of what the truth was, or how he personally felt on the matter, Luther needed to portray the Pope in a holy light if he wanted to be taken seriously by the masses. Or on that matter, if he didn’t want to be immediately and unconditionally prosecuted for blasphemy. He needed to be able to make the argument that he did respect and had shown respect to the Pope, even if he subtly slandered him here and there.
Luther knew the pope was human, and as a human he was just as vulnerable as anyone to sin and corruption. So it was more than likely that on some subconscious level Luther questioned the true holiness and generosity of the Pope. He made the argument that the Pope had enough money to fund the building of the St Peters chapel himself, but instead he condoned commoners to pay for it through buying indulgences. He spoke on behalf of the Pope, expressing the Pope must be naïve to the situation. If he wasn’t naïve he would certainly put a stop to these lying priests, right?
In reality the Pope knew full well about the indulgences. He was more than happy to sit back and allow his followers to build the chapel for him, without actually spending a dime of his own cash. By writing the 95 Theses Martin Luther not only called out this avarice, but did so in a way that didn’t connect him to many legal repercussion’s. He was clever enough to make it look as if he supported the pope, while in fact doing the opposite and questioning the divine foundation the popes rule rested upon.
He managed to call out the heresy of the indulgences and the priests that sold them, but he also did more than that. He managed to call out the source, the top dog, the high and mighty. He called out the control of the whole operation, the ruler of feigned holiness sitting upon his throne of greed. He managed to do this in a way that brought very little chide upon his name. If any other person were to question the Pope, question the supposed righteous leader, he’d have his head lopped off his body in less than a fortnight. But Luther figured out a way to do just that and get only a slap on the wrist. Luther managed to question the sanctity of the Popes authority, while making it seem as if he was on his team. That brilliance led to a revolution. Luther inspired rebels back then, and is still inspiring them today.